Career Field Spotlight #1 – Computer Science & IT (SaferMe)

This blog is the first in a series that will highlight the various Career Fields offered for Virtual Internships Programs! The following overviews a discussion between our Program Experience Manager, Katy Clark, and Christian Sykes, COO of SaferMe.


Christian Sykes is the COO of SaferMe, focusing on team, product, and revenue. Over the past 16 years he has helped over 300 businesses including Google, Facebook, and Experian use data and technology to grow. SaferMe is the largest specialist safety app creator in the world.

Tell us more about SaferMe

“We mobilize the world’s hazard data to make people safer. A ridiculous number of people get sick, injured, or killed every day while trying to make a living. We’re working to change this. In too many organizations compliance is the goal. At most, we think compliance can be a means, but it’s not the end in and of itself. We believe that emerging technologies will drastically reduce the amount of people that get injured or sick at work, and truly make people safer. So that’s what we’re here to do.”

How can an app keep us safer?

“If you are aware of the risks you are exposed to, you can manage them. If you aren’t, you can’t. It’s that simple. SaferMe alerts your people when they approach a hazard so that they can deal with it. This could be hazardous terrain, earthquakes or weather. For example we track 400 million lightning strikes around the planet. App users – who could be people working in industries such as scaffolding, roofing, mining, and oil and gas – will receive the alert directly and can decide whether it is safe to continue working or not. Our apps disrupt how businesses and organizations have typically dealt with health and safety by sending the safety data straight to the worker. One of our biggest clients is Vodafone who we work with globally across 29 countries including the Democratic Republic of  Congo, which incidentally has one of the highest lightning densities lightning strikes per square kilometer) in the world!

We’ve also recently been chosen by the Ministry of Business Innovation & Employment (MBIE COVID-19 Innovation Fund) to supply business-specific contact tracing for New Zealand companies. The mobile app-based solution will be offered for free in NZ.  It actually only took around 3 weeks to develop the main features of the app which rolled out on 19 May. Rather than scoping out the perfect utopian solution to a problem and then spend the next 3 years refining it, we build the smallest valuable component, work out what it does and doesn’t do, then put it into our customer’s hands who then come back to us with any issues that need resolving. We use a software methodology called Agile. Essentially we look at what is the most important thing the app needs to do, so let’s develop that, rather than getting sucked in with building a hundred features that aren’t essential to the main function.”

Do you believe remote working is here to stay?

“Prior COVID-19 I’d say 30 percent of our key staff worked remotely across Australia, UK, Sweden, and New Zealand. The remaining 70 percent of staff were based at our Head Office in Wellington, New Zealand.  One CEO wanted body heat in the office and the other wanted the whole team to work remotely. Moving forward, I’d say we’re much closer to everyone working remotely for good. This is made easier by using platforms such as Zoom, Slack, G Suite, Jira, Bonusly, Basecamp, and Trello.”

What kind of projects could Virtual Interns get involved with at SaferMe?

“Right now we want to sell our contact tracing app to the US market. This means conducting market research within a business analysis role using SAS Business, customer research into contact tracing and identifying the needs of different industries. Which industries are a good fit for our app? On top of that, I would also include sales prospecting and developing a pipeline of potential leads. Depending on their skill set  there could be an opportunity for more specialist research into image recognition and machine learning  eg hazard imaging.”

As an employer, how would you value an application from someone who had completed a Virtual Internship?

“I am always looking for something a bit unique and for somebody who stands out from the crowd. In all honesty, I would much rather you have virtually worked for a small, innovative start-up in Japan than completed the standard computer science internship at Google. Show me that you have the initiative to do something interesting on your own and how you influenced the success of the company you worked for. A Virtual Internship gives you the opportunity to apply yourself and grow, and that’s what we’re looking for in potential employees.”

What is your advice to recent graduates looking to get started in the Computer Science & IT field?

“WORK HARD! Look for experiences that give you an opportunity to gain an understanding of principles of secure, stable software design and exposure to, and understanding of, some development methodology (Agile, Scrum, and so forth).”

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